Our brain can process roughly 120 bits of information per
second. Csikszentmihalyi originally became interested in the
complete absorption of painters while at work; they’d go hours
without eating or resting. He realized their full attention was
focused on a single Task.
Using fMRI machines, researchers learned that Flow is a
subjective experience—the same neurological patterns emerge in
every subject. They had previously assumed the prefrontal cortex
(PFC) processes Flow. This brain region is responsible for
complex cognitive abilities, such as planning ahead, evaluating
rewards and time, suppressing urges, making moral decisions,
learning from experience, and having a sense of self. Yet the
PFC actually shuts down during Flow, which is the reason it
feels instinctual and automatic.
Flow is the result of the synchronization of attentional and
reward networks in the brain. A balance of challenge and skill
Researchers can artificially induce Flow States in several ways.
One is through the use of transcranial magnetic stimulation to
turn off the PFC, which has been shown to help people perform
and learn more efficiently. In one study on military training,
DARPA found that snipers were also able to remain focused under
highly stressful conditions during Flow.
Besides a greater sense of focus, people that experience Flow
often overcome challenges in the way of achieving their goals,
raising their overall sense of life satisfaction. People in Flow
attribute this state for helping them be more creative and feel